Hicks Gate greenbelt housing plans thrown out

An attempt to use greenbelt land to build 1,000 houses between Bristol and Bath has been thrown out.

Liberal Democrat-controlled Bath and North East Somerset Council (Banes) had wanted to build on brownfield sites.

But the Planning Inspectorate had questioned the feasibility of the plans and suggested it needed an alternative.

The ruling Liberal Democrats backed a motion to identify land outside Keynsham for up to 700 homes but the opposition rejected it.

Bath needs to find space for 11,000 homes by 2026 and councillors were told by the inspector to look beyond its favoured brownfield sites for the solution.

Four greenbelt sites had been earmarked by Banes councillors with Hicks Gate, near Keynsham, being the preferred option.

The ruling Lib Dems believe if they upset the inspector by ignoring his advice to at least consider green belt land for new homes then he could throw out their planning strategy altogether which could lead to a free-for-all for developers.

'Developers watching'

Councillor Tim Bull, who is responsible for planning in Banes, said he was faced with the unusual position of asking people to vote to register land for possible development in order to stop that development.

He said: "Developers are watching the council this evening... we want to be sound at ensuring we have no development in the greenbelt. If this planning blueprint falls apart then we have a problem."

During Thursday evening's meeting Conservative and Labour councillors blocked Mr Bull's strategy despite his warnings this would, in effect, be a huge gamble for the council.

Campaigners fear any development could eventually lead to a corridor of homes joining Bath and Bristol together.

Gwen Edwards, who lives in Keynsham, travelled back from Paris to speak at the council meeting.

She said: "If this [greenbelt land] is put down as a contingency then welcome to Bristol and North East Somerset.

"It's really important we get a distinct gap so as we are driving or cycling along between Keynsham and the eastern edge of Bristol there are long periods of greenness you see and that we don't end up with a tiny hedgerow gap between Bristol and Bath.

"It's got to be a substantial difference between these two places," Ms Edwards added.

The Planning Inspectorate is due return to Bath in the new year to reassess the area's housing needs.

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